No Boxed Gifts

If you’ve ever received an Indian wedding invitation before, you’ve likely seen a small note somewhere on the invitation that reads: “No Boxed Gifts, Please.” And unless you’re Indian, you probably thought, “What in the world does that mean?”

After a non-scientific survey of my non-Indian friends, “No Boxed Gifts” (or, as I shall call it from now on, NBG) was interpreted to mean any of the following:

  1. We are a cardboard-averse household. We do not like “corrugated” anything, and we eschew packing tape. Please stick to gift bags instead of boxes.
  2. We don’t want gifts. We’re just weird and don’t know how to say it, so instead of “No Gifts, Please” we say “No Boxed Gifts, Please.”
  3. Instead of bringing gifts to the wedding, please mail them to us, and don’t worry about clicking the “gift wrap” option at checkout. We don’t want to kill trees; we’d prefer our gifts not be wrapped.

Literally no one I spoke to about this had any idea that NBG actually means:


I know what you’re going to say:

  • That’s tacky.
  • It’s impolite to ask for gifts.
  • I don’t feel right giving someone cash instead of a gift for their wedding.
  • How much money is the right amount of money to give?

Let’s dismiss with the judgment right now. This is a new couple who is starting a life together. Clarifying that they would prefer cash over physical gifts is not tacky, it is merely informational. This is no more a money grab than setting up a gift registry is a demand for gifts. It is an opportunity to inform your friends and family that, as you begin your life together as newlyweds, you think cash would be a more helpful gift than a new Crock Pot. In many cultures, it is customary to default to cash as a gift for special occasions, and giving a physical gift instead (say, a cutting board in the shape of the couple’s home state) would be unusual for those people.

If you don’t feel comfortable giving cash to the couple, don’t! You can still give them a tangible gift, or you can skip the gift altogether. If you decide to write a check, don’t sweat the amount – give what you feel you comfortable giving. No one will judge you based on the value of your gift to the newlyweds. But here are two huge notes:

  1. Make sure that your gift is properly labeled so the recipients know it is from you. Anonymous cash is always welcome, but it’s awfully hard to write a thank you note to someone if you don’t know who gave you the gift.
  2. Don’t hand the gift to the newlyweds (or anyone else). There will be a box on a table somewhere in the room during the wedding ceremony or reception. It will likely be guarded by at least one mostly sober family member of the bride and groom. Find it. The box will have a slot in it. You will insert your envelope full o’dough into the slot. Your gift giving is now complete.


Also, because Indian weddings usually don’t involve the giving of many tangible gifts, there will probably be no table at this wedding for you to leave a physical gift upon. That means that, if you opt to give the couple a brand new Dyson vacuum to celebrate their wedded bliss, you should probably mail it to them, or else you’ll have a strange, plastic dancing partner to twirl around the dance floor all evening.